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Hi-Octane – Sega Saturn

Hi-Octane – Sega Saturn

0518151655aPlatform: Sega Saturn

Developer: Bullfrog

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Release Date (NA): December, 1995

Genre: Racing, Futuristic Racer

Nerd Rating: 5 out of 10

Reviewed by: Nerdberry

Wipeout who? F-Zero what? Extreme G huh? Exactly. You can forget all about those games as soon as you pick up that 3D Control Pad for the Sega Saturn because now you’re in a completely new world. The world of Hi-Octane. Okay, that’s not really true. Hi-Octane isn’t really better than F-Zero X or any of the games in the Wipeout series. Actually… If you’ve never played Hi-Octane before, you’ll be extremely disappointed, to say the least. A little disclaimer, I’m sorry if I lean so heavily in my use of Wipeout as a basis for comparison, but that is a damn fine game and all futuristic racing games as we now know them owe the dinner on their tables to Wipeout’s developers.

Hi-Octane (E)In this futuristic world set by developer Bullfrog, there is seemingly no purpose or backstory. Nothing is presented in the game and the book is laced with “how-to’s”, power-up descriptions, and other useless information, yet no story. The game starts by taking you directly to the main menu, which consists of “race” or “options.” Your race modes are championship, clone race (time trial), death match, split screen single race, and hot seat. After choosing your game mode, you can choose your vehicle. This is where it gets reeeeally exciting…… There are 6 vehicles to choose from, each with their own racing characteristics. None of them are textured as the developers opted for flat polygonal shapes as your race vehicles. Lucky you. And then you race. Boom. That’s the game in a nutshell. But is it deeper than that?

Nope. It sure isn’t. Other than being a complete rip-off of Wipeout, and an inferior one at that, Hi-Octane has very little meat surrounding its paltry bone structure. I was originally very amped up for this game, but I was let down hard within less than a minute of race time. Before I tear into the game and harp on the negative aspects, let me take a minute to detail some positives.

hi octane 1

The Good Stuff

The graphics are actually pretty decent, which was a bit of a surprise. They haven’t aged well for a game that’s nearing its 20th birthday, but they are more than serviceable and in 1996, they looked great. The hovercars are a bit weak in design and the lack of texture makes the developers look lazy, although I’m sure there’s a reason behind it. The colors are a bit dim and not as bright or as vibrant as I would have liked, but I like to think this was done intentionally to set the mood.

hi octane 4

The music is actually better than I was expecting. I have high standards for music in games like this because I can’t help but compare all futuristic racers to Wipeout. But even if it is good, it’s an obvious clone of Wipeout, except not nearly as good. Man, am I going in circles or what? I know, I’m confusing you. What I’m saying is… the electronic techno music is not very original or catchy, but it is good. And when paired with the environment and the dim colors, it just feels right.

And that about wraps up anything positive I have to say about Hi-Octane. Now onto the crap.

The Bad Stuff

So we know that the graphics are good, not great. And the music is good, not great. Is there anything in this game that isn’t teetering on the average-fence? Good thing you asked! Because I’m here to tell you that the CONTROLS IN THIS GAME ARE PURE SHIT! There is no acceleration button, which is okay! But it sucks because you are constantly in a state of forward propulsion, limiting your control of the hovercar. Steering is a complete wreck as there are no buttons to help you maneuver around sharp turns. In other similar racing games, the bumper buttons help you drift or do a slight roll so your turn is tighter. Not in Hi-Octane folks. The game pushes you forward and you turn. The other buttons change camera angles and fire missiles and bullets. To make things more difficult, your hovercar floats all over the place and can be very sensitive to your button smashing causing you to overcompensate on turns quite a bit.

hi octane 2

Are the controls the worst part? Maybe. But it isn’t the only bad part. As you race, you may notice the track appearing a short distance ahead through some light fog. This is due to the extremely short render distance (or LoD) which is masked by the (in)famous distance fog. This is a major issue here as you’ll arrive at a turn with little to no notice and much less time to actually act on it. This limitation is a severe injury to an already handicapped game. Granted, the year was 1996 and this was somewhat normal for the time, but even Sonic R wasn’t as bad at this, and Hi-Octane uses similar development techniques regarding draw distance and layered transparency. It’s an embarrassment.

One other thing that really irks me is how you’ll have to do a million bajillion laps to finish a fucking race! The first track in the championship mode requires 11 laps to finish…. ELEVEN! And the next track requires 8. What the fudge Bullshi… I mean, Bullfrog! What were you thinking?


Overall, Hi-Octane provides very little entertainment value and no replay value. I’ll give credit where credit is due, and Hi-Octane does deserve some! This was a tough time for video games as the public was screaming for 3D, virtual reality, and hyper-realism in video games. Bullfrog, a renowned gaming company, put in a moderate effort with their soundtrack and some of the visuals. But unfortunately they fell far short of reaching the bar that Psygnosis set so high with Wipeout and Wipeout XL. And even more unfortunate is that their hard efforts, though valiant, can’t make up for the poor quality controls, average graphics, average soundtrack, and decent sound effects. All-in-all, Hi-Octane is an average experience worthy of a gamer’s collection yet not actually worthy of any playing time.

Oh, and did I mention that one of the hovercars has a giant hole in the middle?? WTF is that?? The “Beserker” has a bit of a design flaw…..

WTF is this ship?! Why does it look like a donut?

WTF is this ship?! Why does it look like a donut?

Written by Nerdberry


What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

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